I think out of everything I read in 2011, The Notebooks of Malte Laudris Brigge would have to be my single most favorite thing. I could tell that I was in for an exceptional experience when certain trusted reader friends of mine, seeing that I had picked up the book at San Francisco Public’s annual huge book sale, spoke of the book in the kind of reverential tones that are only elicited by books of the highest quality. The book is composed of what I suppose you would call “entries” in Brigge’s notebooks, but there’s really very little here that would make this book feel like a journal-as-novel. The thing about the book, however, is that despite any sort of organizing conceit, it really does feel very unified around—something . . . divining that center is part of the task. I really don’t know what this book is about, or even how it works; all I feel I can say after a first reading is simply that it radiates meaning as only the best books I read each year do and that there are literally scores of quotes that I underlined on even a first read . . .
“I don’t think there is such a thing as fulfillment, but there are wishes that endure, that last a whole lifetime, so that anyhow one couldn’t wait for their fulfillment.”
“. . . she could read for hours, she seldom turned a page, and I had the impression that the pages kept growing fuller beneath her gaze, as if she looked words onto them . . .”
“I, who even as a child had been distrustful of music (not because it lifted me out of myself more powerfully than anything else, but because I had noticed that it never put me back where it had found me, but lower down, somewhere deep in the uncompleted) . . .”
“. . . she immediately began to die, slowly and hopelessly, over the whole surface of her body.”
“I lay there, overloaded with myself, and waited for the moment when I would be told to pile all this back into myself, neatly and in the right order.”
“As if I hadn’t known that all our insights are added on later, that they are balance-sheets, nothing more. Right afterward a new page begins, with a completely different account, and no total carried forward.”
. . .